Hale resigns from DHS

Departure could lead to yet another reorganization at the Homeland Security Department

Janet Hale, a backstage power broker at the center of many crucial debates at the Homeland Security Department, announced her resignation last week.

Hale’s departure could prompt organizational changes that would give the department’s chief information officer or other leaders more influence over information technology operations, some observers say.

As DHS’ first undersecretary for management, Hale has “led the way for a 21st-century human resource system, fully integrated information technology architecture, a financial management structure with accountability and a successful strategic procurement program,” said DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff in a statement.

That path has been rocky, judging from reports from the Government Accountability Office and comments from government and industry officials.

Hale’s role at DHS has been powerful and controversial. She coordinates all procurement, technology, finance and human resources activities. Despite her

influence, she is rarely mentioned in accounts of the controversies that rage around her.

A central point of contention is that DHS’ CIO reports to Hale, not to the department’s deputy secretary and secretary as required under the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. Many government and industry officials have called for DHS’ CIO to have more authority over spending and employees — authority Hale wields — to accomplish its duties.

Government and industry experts willing to comment generally gave Hale good grades for her performance. “A three-year term in a high-pressure agency is a good run,” said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at Federal Sources, a market research firm. “With the many issues raised by GAO about agency performance, a lot of the good work at DHS has unfortunately been overshadowed.”

Hale’s departure is fueling speculation that DHS’ CIO, chief financial officer and chief human resources officer will now report directly to the deputy secretary instead of to the undersecretary for management, said Robert Guerra, a partner at Guerra Kiviat, a marketing consulting firm. “I think that’s the way it ought to be,” he added.

Although Hale supported the Bush administration’s pro-management views, she was always accessible and willing to talk about labor issues, said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. Kelley said Hale’s departure will slow the implementation of MaxHR, DHS’ proposed new personnel system.

Chertoff’s major reorganization of DHS last July did not do enough to address systemic problems with management, workforce issues, acquisitions and especially IT, said James Carafano, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Hale’s departure, scheduled for May 1, gives DHS an opportunity to reprioritize, he said.

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